Roaming the Carolinas: A Comprehensive RV Expedition Handbook

Embarking on a road trip through the charming states of North and South Carolina, especially in an RV, promises a journey filled with diverse landscapes, historic cities, Southern hospitality and some gorgeous natural beauty. For me personally, the Carolinas were never very high up on my list of places to visit in the US. But earlier this year, a variety of life circumstances suddenly led me to Raleigh, North Carolina, where I ended up settling for a bit. While based in Raleigh, I began to explore my new surroundings and the more places I visited in this region, the more I wanted to see.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that a road trip through North and South Carolina is an excellent way to make the most of this beautiful part of the country.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore why the Carolinas are the perfect road trip destination, the best times to visit, the advantages of traveling via RVand how to easily rent one with RVshare, plus some itinerary suggestions to help you enjoy a genuinely rewarding adventure.

Why Road Trip Through the Carolinas? 

Diversity of Landscapes

The Carolinas boast a striking diversity of landscapes, from the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, endless untouched State Parks and lush forests to the pristine beaches of the Outer Banks. There are hiking and biking trails everywhere, peaceful lakes and small riverside towns that offer a serene experience. A road trip allows you to experience the full spectrum of natural beauty these states have to offer.

Rich History and Culture

Steeped in history, the Carolinas are home to charming towns, historic landmarks and vibrant cities. It’s the kind of place where you’ll want to stop in every town you reach, simply to understand its past and learn about its culture. Stopping at a cafe or diner in any town will often allow you to uncover local stories directly from the people who live there.

Southern Hospitality

Known for their warm hospitality, the people of the Carolinas welcome travelers with open arms. From quaint bed and breakfasts to friendly locals eager to lend a hand, a road trip here is not just about the destinations. It’s most certainly about the people you meet along the way, wherever you may go.

Best Times to Road Trip in the Carolinas

Spring (March to May)

Spring brings mild temperatures, blooming flowers and the perfect conditions for outdoor activities. It’s an ideal time for hiking, exploring gardens, wandering through cities and enjoying the coastal breeze.

Fall (September to November)

Autumn paints the Carolinas in hues of red, orange, and gold. The weather remains pleasant, making it a great time for scenic drives, fall festivals and outdoor activities.

Summer (June to September)

While the Carolinas are beautiful year-round, it’s a good idea to be a little more cautious during the summer, unless you truly love heat and humidity. If the heat isn’t for you, I’d definitely stick with the Spring or Fall.

The RV Advantage

Flexibility and Freedom

Renting an RV through RVshare allows for unparalleled freedom. You’re not confined to strict itineraries. Instead, you have the flexibility to change your plans on a whim, follow spontaneous detours and stay in the heart of nature.

Cost-Effective Accommodations

An RV eliminates the need for nightly hotel stays, saving you money in the long run. Modern RVs offer comfortable amenities, allowing you to bring the comforts of home wherever you go. If you park at a campground, the fees associated with such a stay are generally much less than paying for a hotel.

Experience Nature Up Close

With an RV, nature becomes your backyard. Wake up to the sound of birds chirping, enjoy a cup of coffee with a mountain view or stargaze from your campsite. It’s an immersive experience that hotels can’t match.

Rent an RV

Choose the Right Type of RV

Consider the size of your travel party, your budget and the level of comfort you desire. Options range from compact camper vans to spacious motorhomes with all the amenities. Luckily, it’s easy to rent an RV these days and you’ll find a variety of options.

If you’re flying into the region, you’ll most likely fly to Charlotte (the biggest hub), where RVshare lists plenty of Charlotte RV rentals to choose from.

Plan Ahead

RV rentals can be in high demand, especially during peak travel seasons. Plan and book your RV well in advance to secure the best options and prices.

Essential Gear for Your Road Trip

Camping Equipment

If you plan to camp as well, ensure you have a reliable tent, sleeping bags and a camping stove. Portable chairs and a table can enhance your outdoor experience as well.

Outdoor Essentials

Hiking boots, backpacks and a first aid kit are essential for exploring nature. It’s worth having good, reliable gear as you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where your gear is not suitable.

RV Essentials

Stock your RV with necessary supplies like kitchen utensils, bedding and toiletries. Don’t forget leveling blocks, hoses for water and sewage and a toolkit for minor repairs.

Entertainment

Pack plenty of books and board games, and download plenty of movies for cozy nights in the RV.

Road Trip Tips and Advice

Plan Your Route, but Stay Flexible

Have a rough itinerary, but be open to spontaneity. It’s so important to maintain the flexibility to embrace unexpected discoveries along the way. Some of the best discoveries happen off the beaten path. Also, you can start almost anywhere, with RV rental locations in most Carolina cities.

Embrace Slow Travel

The Carolinas are meant to be savored. Don’t rush from one destination to the next. Instead, take the time to appreciate the journey, knowing that wherever you end up, you’re bound to have a rewarding experience.

Connect with Locals

Engage with locals as much as possible in order to gain insights into the culture and history of each region. Ask questions, all the time. Locals often provide the best recommendations for dining, activities and scenic spots.

RV Etiquette

Respect campsite rules, dispose of waste responsibly and be mindful of noise levels. RVing is about enjoying nature and respecting fellow travelers, so leave no trace and follow leave-no- trace principles.

Maintenance Checks

Regularly check your RV’s mechanical and electrical systems, especially before long drives. Ensure tires are properly inflated, brakes are functional and all systems are in good working order.

Itinerary

The Carolinas represent a very manageable area to cover on a road trip. As a result, you can really cover a lot of ground depending on how much time you have. The other good thing is that there really isn’t one perfect route that you must take. Have a look at the wonderful destinations below, knowing that you can put them in almost any order you wish.

Asheville, North Carolina:

  • Why visit: Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville is a haven for art, music and outdoor enthusiasts. The city exudes a bohemian vibe, with a rich cultural scene and stunning natural surroundings. There are also many Asheville RV rentals available in the area.
  • Major highlights: Explore the opulent Biltmore Estate, stroll through the River Arts District and enjoy the eclectic shops and restaurants in downtown Asheville. There are also dozens of great hikes, lookout points and beautiful nature spots in the mountains around the town.
  • Restaurant recommendation: Tupelo Honey – Indulge in Southern comfort food at Tupelo Honey, known for its inventive dishes and warm ambiance.

Charlotte, North Carolina:

  • Why visit: Charlotte is a bustling metropolis with a mix of modern attractions and cultural gems. It’s a hub for sports, arts and business.
  • Major highlights: Visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame, explore the vibrant NoDa arts district and take a stroll in Freedom Park.
  • Restaurant recommendation: The Fig Tree Restaurant – A refined dining experience in a beautifully restored 1913 Craftsman-style bungalow.

Raleigh, North Carolina:

  • Why visit: TRaleigh, the The capital of North Carolina, combines Southern charm with a thriving arts and technology scene. It’s known for its green spaces and diverse cultural offerings. It’s also another great city to start from, with no shortage of available RV rentals in Raleigh.
  • Major highlights: Explore the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, visit the historic City Market and relax at Pullen Park. Within 30 minutes of Raleigh, you’ll also find beautiful hiking trails at places such as the expansive William B Umstead State Park, Lake Johnson Park and the North Carolina Art Museum’s vast hiking area.
  • Restaurant recommendation: Poole’s Diner – A beloved downtown spot offering contemporary comfort food.

Hendersonville, North Carolina:

  • Why visit: Also in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Hendersonville is a quaint town known for its apple orchards, vibrant downtown and scenic beauty.
  • Major highlights: Explore the Historic Johnson Farm, stroll along Main Street and visit the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site.
  • Restaurant recommendation: Never Blue – A quirky restaurant with eclectic decor, serving globally inspired dishes.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

  • Why visit: This string of 4 barrier islands seems like a world far, far away from the rest of the state. With wild horses, gorgeous unspoiled beaches, the tallest sand dunes, wildlife refuges and so much more, it is well worth the visit.
  • Major highlights: Beach hopping from one untouched beach to another, visit the many laid-back villages and climb the dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park.
  • Restaurant recommendation: Sam & Omie’s – Savor Outer Banks’ charm at Sam & Omie’s, a legendary diner offering classic seafood dishes and a laid- back atmosphere.

Blowing Rock, North Carolina:

  • Why visit: A picturesque mountain town, Blowing Rock is known for its stunning views, outdoor activities and attractive village atmosphere.
  • Major highlights: Visit The Blowing Rock, explore Moses H. Cone Memorial Park and stroll through the charming downtown.
  • Restaurant recommendation: The Best Cellar – A cozy restaurant with European flair, offering a diverse menu and an extensive wine list.

Brevard, North Carolina:

  • Why visit: Located in the Appalachian Mountains and surrounded by lush forests and waterfalls, Brevard is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, known for its natural beauty and vibrant arts scene.
  • Major highlights: Visit Pisgah National Forest, explore the Brevard Music Center and discover the unique Brevard White Squirrel.
  • Restaurant recommendation: The Square Root – A farm-to-table restaurant emphasizing local and seasonal ingredients.

Charleston, South Carolina:

  • Why visit: Charleston is a charming city steeped in history, known for its well- preserved architecture, cobblestone streets and Southern hospitality.
  • Major highlights: Take a carriage ride through historic downtown, visit the iconic Battery promenade and explore the lively King Street shopping district.
  • Restaurant recommendation: Husk – A celebrated restaurant offering modern Southern cuisine using locally sourced ingredients.

Greenville, South Carolina:

  • Why visit: Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville is a dynamic city with a picturesque downtown, endless outdoor options and a burgeoning culinary scene.
  • Major highlights: Enjoy Falls Park on the Reedy, stroll along the Swamp Rabbit Trail and explore the vibrant downtown Greenville.
  • Restaurant recommendation: Husk and Vine Restaurant – Offering farm-to-table Southern cuisine in a chic setting.

Columbia, South Carolina:

  • Why visit: Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, combines historic charm with a lively cultural scene. It’s a city of parks, museums and notable landmarks.
  • Major highlights: Explore the South Carolina State House, visit the Columbia Museum of Art and relax at Finlay Park.
  • Restaurant recommendation: Motor Supply Company Bistro – A trendy eatery in a restored engine supply building, offering a diverse menu with local ingredients.

Beaufort, South Carolina:

  • Why visit: Beaufort is a coastal gem known for its well-preserved antebellum architecture, historic charm and waterfront beauty.
  • Major highlights: Explore the Historic District, take a carriage tour and visit the scenic Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.
  • Restaurant recommendation: Breakwater Restaurant – A waterfront eatery offering fresh seafood and Low country-inspired cuisine.

Mount Pleasant, South Carolina:

  • Why visit: Located near Charleston, Mount Pleasant offers a blend of history, coastal charm and outdoor recreation.
  • Major highlights: Explore Boone Hall Plantation, stroll along the Waterfront Park and visit Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum.
  • Restaurant recommendation: Shem Creek Bar and Grill – A waterfront restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere, known for its seafood and scenic views.

Aiken, South Carolina:

  • Why visit: Aiken exudes Southern charm with its equestrian culture, historic downtown and beautiful gardens.
  • Major highlights: Visit Hopelands Gardens, explore the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and stroll through the vibrant downtown.
  • Restaurant recommendation: Malia’s – A refined eatery serving a blend of Southern and Mediterranean cuisine in a historic setting.

In the end, RV road trips are an unbeatable way to travel, with comfort, flexibility and value that is hard to find with any other style. Visiting North and South Carolina almost requires such a method of travel as there is simply so much to do – nature trails to explore, history to learn about, culture to soak up, excellent food to eat, museums to visit, beaches to wander and both tranquil small towns and pulsating cities to spend time in.

So, rev up your RV, or rent one through RVshare, and hit the road and let the allure of the Carolinas unfold before you on this unforgettable adventure.